Thursday, March 27, 2008

Are you being served?

It is said that the only thing which separates your company from the competition, is the quality of the service you provide.

We’ve all got plenty of examples of the poor service we’ve received, but sadly, perhaps fewer of the good. I want to concentrate on the good, and to examine some of the reasons why.

Let me give you one or two examples from my personal experience.

Take the case of the guy who services my car. Not only does he charge a fair price, he also picks up the car from my office in the morning and delivers it back in the evening. As a result I have often recommended him to many of my friends.

Or the case of the lady who runs my local mini-market (corner shop). I regularly stop there to buy the odds and ends which I might have run out of, prior to the weekly shop at the market. A few weeks ago I was in there buying a few cans of beer. I'm not too fussy about brands, and although I might usually buy a particular one, she said to me on checking out that why don't I take another brand as they are on offer at present, and I hadn't noticed. She didn't need to do this, as I was now buying something which gave her less revenue. But she did, and as a result, more often than not now, I will buy from her rather than from the supermarket, even if it might be easier when I'm getting all the rest of the shopping.

And how about my newspaper vendor, from whom I buy my newspaper most mornings. One morning a few weeks ago I was later than usual and there was only one left. I commented how lucky I was. He replied that it wasn't lucky, because he had saved it for me. I had never asked him to do that, but do it he did.

Notice a theme here? All of these positive cases I've mentioned have one common factor - they are running their own businesses, however small they may be, and perhaps therein lies one of the answers to the reasons why we seem to get better service from small, owner-run businesses. Could it be that they recognise that they get their income from us, their customers, and we have a choice - to use them, or their competitors. Employees of much larger organisations may not have this same level of enlightenment.

But I would not place the blame on them. I would place it firmly with the owners of the businesses who have failed to provide their people with the right motivation. In my opinion, it's not their training that is lacking, either in substance or quality, it's a far greater problem one which will not be solved until businesses which employ large numbers of people, recognise the critical importance of what I term intrinsic motivation.

Everyone, without fail, is (inherently) positively motivated by something. It might be money, a pleasant working environment, performance-based incentives, share options, longer holidays or whatever. It doesn't matter what it is, employers need to find out from their employees and then act upon it. Of course, you're never going to be able to please (motivate) all of the people all of the time. However, as long as an employer manages to feed the intrinsic motivation of the majority of his employees, he'll find a marked increase in customer satisfaction, which will ultimately turn into increased profitability.

Another facet of life working in a small companies (eg less than 10 people), is that you really do feel a part of the organisation, and not merely someone who needs an ID tag around their neck so the company’s security people knows who they are. There are less than 10 in my consultancy (dozens more of course in our network of associates), and I am proud to tell you that they all not only know our company’s goals, short and long term , they are also intrinsically motivated to want to succeed. They know that if the company succeeds it’s because of them, and that the result will be the reward they KNOW they’ll want. And it isn’t just money.

Large companies CAN do this too, and I know of one from personal experience. They are one of the world’s largest international banks and I worked for them for some 28 years, in London, Hong Kong and Malaysia. In each location they strived hard to keep people as informed as possible about the company’s goals and its performance against those targets. OK, as this can be market sensitive information, it had to be cloaked in terms which related to percentage increases and so on rather than exact figures, except of course, where this was public information anyway.

People are far better self-motivated when they have a clear picture of how their own performance has contributed to the company’s. Hopefully too, this will be reflected in their performance appraisal – but that’s a topic for another time.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Outplacement - helping retrenched employees find new jobs

Maybe a strange topic to choose for my opening business post, but it happens to be current for me as a consulting assignment to a multi-national company here in Kuala Lumpur.

Essentially outplacement happens when a company has determined a need to retrench a number of employees, but rather than simply terminate their employment, with minimum redundancy payment as required by law, they recognise a certain responsibility towards those who will lose their jobs.

There are of course, many reasons for jobs becoming redundant (and in most juristictions, the law requires that it is jobs that are being lost) with the resulting retrenchment of the job holders, if they cannot be redeployed within the company. The company I am now working with on an outplacement assignment has sold one of its divisions to another company, and the buyer does not need the employees.

In my view, and that of many HR pros, unless you have experienced retrenchment yourself, you cannot be truly effective as a counsellor to someone who has just been told they are losing their job. A former colleague once compared it to childbirth! She commented that unless you've given birth, you cannot possibly empathise! While somewhat extreme, I have to agree :-) All our consultants involved in outplacement (me included) have all been retrenched at some time AND have a psychology or counselling qualification.

The particular outplacement service we offer covers advice and assistance to the company in ensuring that they meet all local legal and regulatory requirements, and a number of hand-holding services to the affected employees.

For the company, our services include:
  • Check that all labour law and industry regulatory requirements are being met. Our senior consultant is an industrial and employee relations expert.
  • Provide a check on all communications (or draft them for the company) to ensure there is no ambiguity and the message being given is pitched at just the right level - remember companies often find that motivating (or re-motivating) those who remain is a major task
  • Assisting or providing calcuations for redundancy pay, at least at the minimum required by law
  • Briefing or full training, if required, on delivering the message of retrenchment in the most effective manner, and moving quickly onto the benefits that will be provided.

For individials, we provide:

  • Trauma counselling, if required by the individuals (we strongly recommend it, particularly if the affected individuals are worried about telling their spouse and family, or have perhaps recently taken on a large financial commitment)
  • Resume writing, helping individuals to produce a resume that will sell them to their next employer
  • Job search strategies - where to look for jobs...resources are many and very varied
  • Interview skills - examining the strategies and behaviours candidates need to employ if they are to present themsleves effectively to potential employers
  • Placement of their resume on our own Executive Search and Recruitment Division's candidate database
  • Provision of office facilities (for managerial level employees) and office services for all others

The last point above can be really important for many psychologically, in that it means they are still getting up in the mornings and coming into "work". It just means their "work", for the time being, is the most important sales assignment they'll ever have. Selling themselves to their next employer.

One major point on this sales assignment concerns the candidate's resume - this does NOT get the candidate the job he or she is after, but if done well, it should get them the interview for the job.

A resume must be designed and presented in such a way that it screams out "READ ME!" to the recruiter. Many, if not most recruiters are usually faced with hundreds of applicants' resumes to read and rate. We help those who've come to us produce a resume that not only looks and reads professionally, it will always be noticed and therefore read.

Providing outplacement services is not too common here in S E Asia, and tends to largely be offered by multi-national companies operating in the region. However, more and more local companies are now recognising the responsibility they have to those being made redundant for no fault of their own. Full marks to them, for it also gets noticed, and is a very positive image enhancer, with such companies being seen as a caring employer, something that is pretty important in this part of the world.

Well, I guess that's about it for this first business post. I'll be happy to try to answer any questions readers may have, but do realise that I'm not operating in the US or Europe, but in S E Asia, where our labour laws and employment regulations are somewhat different.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Resisting the temptation no longer .....

I've resisted this temptation for several years now, but can resist no longer!

Perhaps I should come clean, be honest, and admit that the real reason for lowering my resistance is that my good lady, my much better half, has pointed out to me the potential of a blog to actually earn a few dollars!

At one time I did consider a purely personal blog, using it more like a diary, but knew that in that format it was unlikely to last. But, if I made it mostly business related, the chances were not only much better that it would last, but could also be a vehicle for earning an additional income.

My business is consulting, with specialisms in Human Resource Management and Human Resource Development together with a totally different expertise in direct/database marketing (direct mail with co-ordinated telemarketing).

Therefore, it's my intention over the coming months (consulting assignments permitting) to write a number of articles on HRM, HRD and direct/database marketing. In addition of course, I also plan to jot down some thoughts (or maybe I should say "musings" in view of the title I've given this blog.

Oh yes, why Zephyr? Well I've had an online forum existence as Zephyr for about seven years, so thought I might aswell continue with it. I chose Zephyr as it is the antithesis of my default personality, which is more like a typhoon than a gentle breeze. But it is a gentle breeze to which I aspire.

So, until I next post, hopefully with my first article, I'll sign off, but with a big thank you and all my love to my darling better half, my Sunshine (her one time, online forum name), for the encouragement to start this blog.